Brendan Yu | Senior Reporter
Standing at a modest 6-foot-1-inch, David Parker doesn’t exactly cut an imposing figure on the volleyball court, especially next to teammates that practically tower a solid foot over him. Yet, on Saturday night, during UCI’s (15-10, 3-5) five-set win over CSUN (11-13, 1-7), there was no player that made their presence felt more than Parker.
After a dismal first set, Parker, who normally plays libero for the ‘Eaters, came in as an outside attacker and scored a kill on the first point of the second. His impact was immediate, as the previously lifeless ‘Eaters roared in approval with a furious vigor that was noticeably absent up until that moment. Evidently, that spark was all UCI needed as the ‘Eaters displayed a markedly improved effort in the second set before ultimately prevailing over the Matadors.
“We figured we needed a little fire, and first play ran a little trick play got it, and I think from there it speaks for itself,” said Parker, who originally came into UCI as an outside attacker.
Like his height’s Parker’s stats are modest, as the Rocklin senior finished with eight kills, 10 digs, and four blocks assists. But again, the impact of each play cannot be understated, as every kill or block Parker made always seemed to come at the most crucial moments for the ‘Eaters.
“He just gave us a boost of energy and I [rode] it, and I feel like everybody just rallied behind him,” said Aaron Koubi. “I feel like that was the turning point, and even though we lost the second set, it felt like we were still very close, the energy was there.
Koubi paced the ‘Eaters with a match-high 21 kills on a robust .400 hitting percentage while adding one ace, five digs and three total blocks. Karl Apfelbach added 12 kills at a .409 clip, while middle attackers Scott Stadick and Patrick Sohacki each added eight kills apiece.
The Matadors were led by Kwasery Tomsia, who had 19 kills on .205 hitting. Dimitar Kalchev and Maciej Ptaszynski added 14 and 12 kills respectively.
After starting out the night hitting .571, the Matadors only regressed with each successive hit until finally reaching an abysmal -.067 in the fifth set. UCI, on the other hand, improved their hitting percentage with each set to finish the night with a .345 percentage after starting out at .182.
One notably improved aspect of the ‘Eaters game was their serving, as they only hit seven service errors after recording a whopping 24 in a loss to CSUN the night before. According to the ‘Eaters, their serving woes were not something the team bothered addressing.
“We always want our servers to just be how they are, and it just felt like it’s also better when we’re in our own gym,” Koubi said. “Guys were going for it, Parker was going for it from the service line and he had a couple runs, we were feeling it, the energy was good, and it all started from the players.”
Parker, Stadick and Dante Chakravorti were all errorless from the service line on 41 combined attempts.
“Most of the time, service errors aren’t a technical thing,” Head coach David Kniffin said. “It’s a mental thing, so fix the mindset, and the errors go away, but we didn’t talk specifically about serving.”
In the first set, CSUN took an early 12-7 advantage and never trailed as they coasted to a convincing first set win.
Tomsia was the main facilitator for the Matadors on offense, as the junior outside knocked down 10 of CSUN’s 19 kills at a .571 hitting percentage.
In a move that provided a much needed spark for the listless Anteaters, UCI switched libero David Parker to the outside at the start of the second to take a 4-1 lead. However, CSUN quickly rebounded to take seven of the next nine points and retake the lead in what would become the closest set of the evening. Both teams then took turns siding out with a total of 11 tie scores before a 4-0 run propelled the Matadors to a 20-17 lead late. UCI rallied late to close within 23-24, but an errant serve would give the set to the Matadors.
A pivotal block and kill by Parker to put them up 10-6 in the third set was all the impetus the ‘Eaters needed to stay alive in the match. A re-energized UCI held the Matadors to a .037 hitting percentage while hitting for .444 to extend the match into a fourth set.
Down 17-13 and with their backs against the wall in the fourth, the ‘Eaters responded with a 6-1 run punctuated by an Apfelbach kill. With the momentum on their side, the ‘Eaters closed out the set off a block by Parker and Stadick to force yet another decisive fifth-set.
Back-to-back blocks and a kill by Apfelbach would put the Anteaters up 5-2 in the decisive fifth set and prompt a CSUN timeout. UCI would come out of the break with another block and a kill to force a second Matador timeout after as many points. The ‘Eaters kept the Matadors at bay, holding them to an abysmal match-low -0.67 hitting percentage before going on to complete the comeback.